JEFFERSON CITY - Missouri's regulation of dog breeders is "spotty," "ineffective" and has left animals at risk for substandard care, according to an audit released Thursday by State Auditor Claire McCaskill.
The state agriculture department, responsible for regulating the state's $1.8 billion commercial pet industry, was cited for "spotty state inspections with few sanctions; appearance of conflicts of interests of top management; state inspections less thorough than federal inspections; and lax program performance measures," according to the report.
The Missouri Division of Animal Health had not fined a single commercial dog breeder during a recent two year period, auditors said, pointing out that inspectors "said they knew if the dogs were healthy by looking at their eyes."
The audit found that at one site, state and federal investigators reported "starkly different conditions" on the same day.
"Missouri has the highest percentage of licensed commercial dog breeders in the nation, yet the state program that regulates these breeders is ineffective," McCaskill said.
McCaskill also raised questions about dog breeding businesses operated by the wives of two agency officials. Both were recently transferred to livestock and poultry inspection programs at the Agriculture Department.
"As a result of our audit both of these individuals have been moved. They are no longer in the commercial dog breeder inspection program," McCaskill told reporters at the State Capitol.
John Hunt, the state veterinarian responsible for administration of the state's Animal Facilities Act said he remained confident in the transferred inspectors.
"The reassignments are a result of the audit," Hunt said, emphasizing that he disputed charges that the inspectors had a conflict of interest.